According to recent figures by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), there have already been thousands of complaints regarding employees being forced to return to workplaces that are not COVID-secure.

There have been rising concerns about the safety of workplaces as the HSE reports almost 3,000 complaints (2,945) regarding safety issues in the workplace between 6th and 14th January alone.

The guidance of the Government during the current lockdown restrictions in England has been that employees should “only leave [their] home for work if [they] cannot reasonably work from home.”

The official Government websites stated that this includes, but is not limited to, workers within critical national infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, childcare or education and essential public services.

However, in the case that it is not possible, the Government have stated that employers must ensure that workplaces are COVID-19 secure.

Despite this, analysis undertaken by The Observer noted that, during the current lockdown, the HSE had not served any enforcement notices to companies that have broken COVID-19 safety protocol.

A spokesperson for HSE stated:

[Our] inspectors continue to be out and about, putting employers on the spot and checking that they are complying with health and safety law.

Research conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in September 2020 found that less than half of workplaces have enabled safe social distancing. It further found that workers within low-paid and insecure jobs were most likely to have an employer who did not take any steps to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace.

A different survey which was carried out by the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) found that 40 per cent of workers said they had worked within 10 days of a positive COVID-19 result. This suggests that, in addition to a lack of COVID-19 precautions being taken, there may also be further pressure on employees to return to the workplace.

Regarding the number of complaints made to the HSE, Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said:

If the government is upping enforcement, ministers should start with employers who break Covid safety rules. [There should also be] an increase in resources for the HSE to stop rogue employers getting away with putting staff at risk. Every employer needs to know an inspection could happen any time.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.